About Wooden Bats

Overview

Wooden bats have been used by professional baseball players since the sport’s inception. According to the website Baseball-Bats.net, early wooden baseball bats came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Players quickly discovered, however, that bats with rounded barrels served their purposes best. Although the wooden bat has evolved over the past 150 years, it still possesses many of the same features of the older models, and exact specifications have been created by manufacturers to ensure that all new bats conform to measurement standards.

Features

All wooden bats possess a barrel, handle and knob. The barrel is the thickest part of the bat and typically is the part used to contact the pitched ball. Every barrel possesses a “sweet spot,” which is the area around your bat’s center of mass and is the location on your barrel that’s touted as the best place for you to make contact with the ball. If you strike a ball on your bat’s sweet spot, the ball will travel farther than if you’d struck it on another part of your barrel. The handle is the narrowest part of your part and begins where the barrel starts to narrow. The knob of the bat is situated at the end of the handle and keeps the bat from slipping out of your hands while you’re swinging at a pitch.

Types

There are numerous bat manufacturers constructing wooden bats of varying sizes, weights and materials. According to Baseball-Bats.net, hickory was the material of choice in early bat construction, but the popularity of this wood diminished with the introduction of white ash. Most bats now are made of white ash because of its strength, durability and relatively light weight. Other types of bats gaining popularity among ballplayers are bamboo bats and maple bats—bamboo bats for their strength, maple bats for their precise sweet spot and tight grain.

Length

According to the website SteveTheUmp.com, an online resource for baseball umpires, before 1869, there were no limitations on the length of baseball bats. In 1869, a rule was created that limited bat length to a maximum of 42 inches. This rule still existed in 2010. Most bats used by ballplayers today are 31 to 34 inches long. Baseball-Bats.net suggests that choosing a bat length should be based more on comfort and how the bat feels in your hands when you swing than on what other players are using.

Weight

Professor Daniel A. Russell of the science and mathematics department of Kettering University suggests that many young players use bats that are heavier than the ideal because “light enough bats are not available.” Russell also states that many major league batters use a lighter than ideal bat—sacrificing higher batted ball velocity—in order to “wait just a little bit longer before committing to a swing” and for better bat control. Increased bat control and more time—even if it’s just a fraction of a second—to see the pitch coming can translate into more success at the plate, Russell argues. Like bat length, the best assessment of optimal bat weight is a tactile one—how the bat feels in your hands when it’s swung—and is a matter of personal preference.

Grip

If you’ve watched baseball games, odds are you’ve seen a batter take a mighty swing or “cut” at the ball, only to miss and have the bat fly from his hands. If you want to prevent this embarrassing spectacle, and if you want to improve your grip on your bat, then apply to your bat’s handle a sticky substance called “pine tar.” According to official Major League Baseball rules—specifically, rule 1.10(c)—“The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18 inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.”

About this Author

Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician and freelance writer based out of Durham, N.C. He writes about health, fitness, diet, lifestyle, travel and outdoor pursuits. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.